Panic Beach

Institute History

  • 2002 January Screenwriters Lab


Blinding herself to the painful tragedy of her father's suicide, 17-year-old Marlene sets off on a trip to France. On the way she is befriended by India, a carefree young woman traveling to Europe in search of a good time. Together they head for Biarritz and the long stretch of beach where surfers congregate in search of the perfect wave.
The girls end up at a sun-drenched out of season holiday resort, where they meet Sergei and Nik, two rebellious Russian brothers who promise to show the girls a good time. Nik works as a kitchen porter in the casino. Sergei is the reckless charmer fueled by dreams of getting rich fast. Marlene is immediately drawn to Sergei, but it is soon obvious he seems to favor India.

The gleeful, hyped-up foursome spend heady nights on the beach, strangers in a strange land, caught up in a desire to lose themselves. Dabbling with drinks and drugs, they try on different realities, challenging a world they don't fit into. As half-feared, half-wished desires are unleashed, Marlene's relationships become increasingly unsettled. Things reach breaking point one night on the beach, as the drugs make for jagged and ambiguous psychological shifts of perspectives. Sergei turns his attention to Marlene, antagonizing India and heightening Nik's frustrations. There is an unpleasant confrontation and India walks off into the night. In the morning, Marlene wakes up alone – India is gone, having left all of her belongings behind.

Stepping out of India's shadow, Marlene enjoys being alone at the center of the two brothers' attention. But when India doesn't return after a few days, Marlene fears that something has happened and that she is somehow responsible. The arrival of a French inspector who strangely reminds Marlene of her father disturbs her further, until she is forced to confront her guilt and deal with the conflicting emotions inside.


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